Thursday, March 4, 2010

Will Cone , Alaska keep their strong as oak partnership?

I WAS on board an FX taxi in Cubao when I tried to give multi-titled Alaska coach Tim Cone a ring.

It was a Thursday, noon time. Under an angry summer sun, I was hoping Coach Tim doesn’t have the temper of a beaten mentor few hours after his Aces were swept by coach Ryan Gregorio’s Purefoods Tender Juicy Giants.

I’ve always been Cone’s regular caller. He’s one of those quotable coaches so to speak, as if we’re gathering pearls from his mouth. Which is why I believe he won’t mind If I call him up even when the wounds of his team’s setback was still fresh and yet to heal even for a day.

“Hello Rey, it sounds like your voice is breaking down and there’s some sort a sound of air,” said Cone, who was right when he mentioned a sound of air is coming from my direction as a fan was turned on by the cab driver to increase the coolness of air-conditioning at the packed FX taxi.

I asked him about his thoughts on the finals and the winningest mentor among active coaches broke down to details the main reasons why Purefoods beat Alaska and why his legacy was now inflicted by a four-game sweep in more than 20 years of coaching in the PBA.

“We’ve tried everything we could do and Purefoods just beat us with their energy, their size and their speed,” said Cone. “Purefoods truly deserves this victory.”

It was the first time Cone received such a beating, but the series might never been called as a blowout as Games 2 and 3 were decided by last-second baskets. But it was the third time Gregorio has able to pull off a victory over his much heralded rival, who has 12 league titles.

Asked about any regrets in the championship series, Cone could only hope he could find ways to beat Purefoods, particularly Gregorio, who was described by the veteran mentor as one of the best young coaches today.

“He kept me guessing in the series and at times made our team look bad,” said Cone.

This is not the first time the younger Gregorio has defeated Cone in a best-of-seven series.

In 2002, Gregorio was an interim mentor and temporarily took over from Eric Altamirano, who was on loan to the Busan Asian Games. In the Governors Cup finals, Ryan lost the first two games but won four of the next five games to complete a Cinderella Finish.

In 2005-06 Philippine Cup, the Giants had their collective backs against the wall and were one win away from being booted out of from the finals race. Yet, Gregorio found a way to gather his team’s strength as they won four straight games to edge the Aces.

But this one could be the most painful.

Throughout the conversion when the FX taxi has reached the boundary of Quezon City and Manila (Welcome Rotonda), Cone gave an answer that somehow surprised me. I don’t know how did I ask about his security of tenure and how I would love to see him coaching for another long stretch.
But the setback could only define Cone’s fate with Alaska Milk is now uncertain.

“There’s no excuse for the setback. Either we lose by one point or by 20 points, the bottom line there is that you still lost games. And in an organization like ours, there’s no guarantee in terms of security once you started losing. What more when you got swept in the finals?,” said Cone.

Cone, the longest tenured mentor in the PBA, has his contract set to expire this July. He admitted that his fate as Alaska coach remains uncertain, especially after the team was swept in the finals.

So what does the future lies ahead for Cone if ever he won’t be given a new term? For Cone, coaching is his love and his life.

“I love coaching and I would love to coach any team,” added Cone, who is second in the all-time list for most number of championship behind his idol, the legendary Baby Dalupan. “But if Alaska would want me to be there, then I would stay. Alaska has been my home in the PBA and the leaders in the organization are my mentors.”

Although there was an assurance coming from Alaska team manager Joaqui Trillo that “there will be no problem having Cone resigned for a new pact” Cone’s performance will be definitely evaluated. And the finals setback could be the jumpstart.

“We had a great run this conference. We made it 11-1 in the elimination and ended up No.1 at the end of the double-round elims. We were so sharp until the semifinals where we swept Ginebra until we finally met our match in Purefoods, which has definitely posed a lot of trouble for us,” said Cone.

In 20 years of coaching the Aces, Cone experienced being a winner -- and becoming a bitter loser.

“I swept a team and was swept as well. I fought in short series and seven-game series and won and lost quite a number of them. In 20 years of coaching you will experience a lot of those,” he added.

For 20 years, Cone and Alaska had been synonymous to success. Together, they were like Chad and Jeremy on the microphone, Dolphy and Panchito when cracking a joke on the boob tube and the Cape Crusaders on a night mission.

Whatever happens to the partnership – whether Cone and the Aces will part ways or continue their mutual relationship together that has been tested against time, it will definitely be interesting to see the man would pick himself up, bounce back strong and reaffirm his status as one of the game’s best bench tacticians the league had ever seen.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

YOU don’t call it a finals when…………..

YOU don’t call it a finals when one team is beating the other black and blue and depriving the public of an expected exciting series finale.
No one wants to see a team beating the hell out of its counterpart, pummeling them at every turn in the finals. No sports fan wants to see the score ends at 100-70, a rebounding disparity of 25 to 30 in a game or a team playing better, dishing out 20 more assists than the squad it has defeated.
You don’t call it a finals when you see a thousand or few more hundreds empty seats from Game 1 until it last. A finals game needed hype so as to attract more viewers be they a fan or not. What’s the lowest attendance in a finals game? Could it be the 1987 finals between Hills Brothers and San Miguel? Or could it be the Swift vs Seven-Up encounter when the Uncolas got swept in 1992? I can’t recall. But these fans wanted to see some great basketball. They wanted to see Jose Slaughter popping up treys one after another. They wanted to see The Hurricane Tony Harris and anticipate of another high-scoring game from him that could reach more than a 100 all by his lonesome.
They wanted to see some good games. They wanted to see players hitting baskets one after another. They wanted to see teams going after the ball, diving to get it and doing whatever it takes to get the ball. They wanted to see players blocking their opponents’ shot as if saying that “shooting over him won’t be an easy task.” They wanted to see baskets in spurts, cutting huge deficits and getting back into the game to turn a lopsided match into an exciting down-to-the-wire encounter. In other words, fans came to see the game and wanted to get their money’s worth.
And most of all, you don’t call it a finals when you see referees deciding the outcome of the match.
Players decide the turnout of the game – and not the officials. Referees should be on top of the situation, but they don’t put to a halt to a great play. They should not deprive a player or a team making good stop. They should not make bail out calls to superstars and give them freebies. Just because James Yap is one of the biggest draws in the PBA today and Kerby Raymundo is the team captain of Purefoods and was a two-time all-pro national team member weren’t good reasons enough to separate them from other players or a team even if it’s Joe Devance, a former top overall pick, and Alaska, a classy organization that won 12 PBA titles and a win away from duplicating the championship collections of the legendary Crispa Redmanizers.
Referee Maui Mauricio should forget thinking of becoming this season’s Referee of the Year with his bum call in the last 1.7 seconds of Game 2 of the best-of-seven championship series. Without giving consideration that it won’t have any effects at all should he stayed quiet and watched Raymundo let loose a jumper than blowing his whistle, the referee made a gutsy call and was cocky enough to justify his claim that there was a contact. Had Raymundo’s shot went in even without the whistle, Purefoods would have tasted the sweetest win – a victory that happened after a long chase when the squad needed last action heroes in Yap and Raymundo.
Instead, the Giants had to cap that big run with a bailout call from Mauricio. Not only did the referee allowed Raymundo of shattering the game’s final deadlock at 85-all, he also spoiled what could be an interesting finish to Game 2 regardless of who will win. But why decide the outcome based on your whistle? Isn’t it more logical to see players finish the game and be given credit for the win?
PBA commissioner Sonny Barrios remained mum for any comments at this time, but I expect him to give a mouthful on Mauricio and the two other officials who worked on that game.
How does Purefoods treats Game 2 victory that put the team ahead 2-0 in the series?
Of course, coach Ryan Gregorio could always tell a win is a win and he would be glad to take it in a best-of-seven showdown. Without taking away anything from Purefoods, I would tell the Giants did a good job of coming back and turning the game into a humdinger.
What did Alaska feel when it lost the game and fell down 0-2?
Despite the injustice done in the closing seconds, the Aces played with so much class when the stakes were higher. They were deprived of a chance to win – at least for the next five minutes or so in that game – had the referee didn’t blow his whistle.
There were no protest filed, no walkouts made. Just a sudden burst of emotion against the call that went against them and that’s it. They remained classy even against the toughest time. I wonder if some teams should admire what the Aces did and emulate it.
And for coach Tim Cone, who is certainly the more outspoken among the two mentors battling in the finals, he didn’t make the bum calls as excuse. He was looking at the bigger picture in that game – an Alaska fan who was struggling for his life.
In his Twitter account., Cone recounted his failure to use one of his timeouts so as to stop the action and possibly help out Steve Racelis, who collapsed in the Alaska gallery during the heat of the action. For the multi-titled mentor, who value so much winning, championship and team chemistry, he sees life as bigger than the game of basketball.
“I wish I had been quick-thinking enough to use one of our own timeouts to stop the game for him,” said Cone. “He’s undergoing brain surgery at the Lourdes Hospital.”

“The game is not sacred. Life is. My prayers and the Alaska organization's prayers go out to him and his family,” said Cone. “The worst thing about Game 2 was the PBA's refusal to stop the game when a fan was in obviously serious distress. I was shocked.”

All those things that happened to Alaska – the injustice, the fan struggling for his life and the deficit that only happened for Alaska for just the second time since Cone has been at the helm – should be used as a motivating drive for the Aces’ next game. We could only hope a real finals game should be played this time.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Batch 92: Here we go again

TWO familiar faces joined the self-proclaimed Fab Four, who started the series of get togethers for Judge Juan Luna’s Batch 92 in the Year of the Tiger.

One of them, a former cadet officer for his high school’s alma matter, barely showed signs of aging, while the other one presented a new, bombastic look.

Meng Garcia, better known as Batcom or Battalion Commander, showed up his lean frame, boyish look and respectful aura that made him as one of the most feared voices – and endearing personality among ladies -- during the school’s cadet formation of Class 91-92.

Floren Andres presented his new figure. Now heavier not only due to his unwanted pounds but in terms of responsibilities as well, the son of a retired teacher provided his bright spot – a bald image -- that symbolizes the years of hard work he had endured from being a dutiful son, a diligent student and a devoted employee.

No wonder, he still remains a certified bachelor.

They were present one humid Saturday afternoon at their favorite spot – Jollibee Munoz. Minutes later, they were joined by two cornerstones of the WBCJ – Lt. Christopher Cruz and beverage company manager Benjo de Leon and yours truly.

Together, we visited another ex-Rizalian, Renato Laurente -- not related to Arnold Laurente, husband of the former Kaye Sanchez -- who was at the nearby telecom repair shop. With several cellphone units lined up to be repaired at that time, Renato could only offer a promise he would join us later on, which unfortunately never happened.

On board an early 90s model of maroon Kia Pride, Memeng did the honors of driving us from the tiring stretch of Congressional, to the trafficking Batasan all the way to Marikina.

Over at that green gate was Bobot Ramos’ resident.

It was business as usual for a Saturday for Bobot, who simply couldn’t say no to his long-lost friends he hadn’t seen for many years, except of course for the three of us – me, Lt. Cruz and Benjo, who just invaded the multi-million auto shop company just months back.

Just a simple greetings and shaking of hands keep us all warmed up until the proud host invited everyone for a merienda nearby. We picked Chowking over Jollibee because the choices were pretty obvious – that we’re no kids anymore and aren’t fascinated as well by a playing area inside.

Aside from getting the wrong set of orders – me getting a bola-bola rather than asado siopao and Floren receiving vice versa, and the number of pineapple juices exceeding by two glasses, the short yet entertaining chit chat got as all on our toes.

We traveled back, but decided to pull over to get our favorite pulutan – a delectable liempo and a lechon manok.

Off to the batcave.

Already prepared were the beers on the cooler. Bobot took his turn setting up his humble office – a well-oiled machine by the day to customers who came in either by group or one at a time, but being used as a VIP Room for people who became VIPs to the host’s life.

No camera was available at that time, forcing us to use my mobile phone instead. After few snaps, a glass or two of Del Monte Fit and Right, Memeng had decided to depart us to fulfill his duty as a devoted husband and father to his two kids.

So we’re now down to five. There were no countdowns made from there onwards. We’re not much aware of the time either what with a videoke all set up, turning a drinking spree into a night of entertaining music in between lively chit chat and recollection of the not-so-distant past (whew, 18 years was just like yesterday).

From the VIP room, Bobot decided to transfer us to the function room – their living room inside his kingdom. There in front of us was a 70-plus inches, Sony LCD television. There, we took turns, impersonating our all-time favorite band/singers from rock groups Guns and Roses, Kamikaze Parokya ni Edgar, Jazz maker Mike Francis to balladeers Jose Marie Chan, Basil Valdez and Andy Gibb.

As the night fell and morning slowly crept in, an unexpected call came from a long lost friend. Lt. Cruz’s phone rang around 2 a.m. and a familiar enthusiastic voice burned the line. It was Redondo Basabas, who was a million miles away from us. The guy is working in the Middle East, but didn’t mind to drop by just to say Hi and asked everyone how the gathering was proving that friendship could also be a phone call away.

The guy certainly missed us – a lot – more so his family whom he deserted for quite some time now. It won’t take long for Dondon to come back. He will be here few weeks from now.

But the night won’t be complete without the Q and A where each one of them took turns in pulling out the cat from the bag.

Benjo de Leon: My most embarrassing? Ah, yung tinulak ako ni Junel sa hagdan he he he. My most memorable moment? Of course, it’s the friendship that we’ve attained which remains even up to now.

Lt. Christopher Cruz: My most embarrassing experience happened nu’ng naglaro kami ng basketball at nahulog ako sa kanal, he he he. First year lang kami nun. Most memorable, parehas din kay Benjo, yung pagiging magkaibigan which has become our foundation through the years.

Bobot Ramos: Dati,si Ms. Yangco very strict sa mga nali-late. Nakailang beses yata akong nag-flag ceremony na kami-kami lang kasama yung ibang late so that’s an embarrassing moment. Most memorable for me was my inclusion in the WBCJ group.

Floren Andres: Embarassing moment is yung hinalikan ko si Romena Ramos.

As for me? Well, I puked during my junior year in the corridor at a time when we were taking the exam. There was too much alcohol intake and I assumed the effects would give me great results during test. Benjo mentioned to me this rare opportunity of penetrating the elite Rizal class and I must admit that’s one of my few accomplishments – and possibly the greatest during high school.

Memories, good or bad, had given us lessons in life. But one thing I’ve realized is that high school won’t be complete without friends on your side. No wonder, that’s the consensus of the five of us who once again brought back the hands of time and will use this philosophy until we’re here.

This is indeed the living testament of true friendship – a fact that remains come hell or high water.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Destroyer welcomed back by ex-rivals

THERE was a time in the Philippine Basketball Association that Rudy Distrito, the man aptly called The Destroyer instilled fear in the hearts of players.

Jeffrey Cariaso, then a young, promising guard from Alaska, was given a clothes-line tackle by Distrito during a game between Alaska and Swift nearly 15 years ago.

“Good thing I was young then, as I was able to endure that hard tackle and avoid the injury,” Cariaso told Standard Today in a telephone interview recalling the incident that led to the ban on Distrito from the professional league.

As a result of that PBA ban, the Games and Amusement Board also revoked the license of Distrito, who started his career as a member of the Crispa Redmanizers, but became popular when he was taken in by crowd darling Ginebra San Miguel of playing coach Robert Jaworski.

But has Cariaso already forgiven Distrito?

For Cariaso, who is now on the twilight of his career as team captain of the Aces, it’s not even an issue.

“All things that happen in basketball should stay inside the court,” said Cariaso. “Maybe, it’s just one way of intimidation for him every time he plays. We don’t know what happened in the United States, but I do believe he’s a good guy outside of the court. Besides, the penalty he suffered when he was banned from playing is more than enough.”

Distrito spent time in the High Desert State Prison in Nevada after being convicted of manslaughter in the death of 24-year-old Mexican Juan Amaya during a scuffle outside an apartment near the strip. Distrito, who was paroled for his good behavior and didn’t serve his full term of eight years, is back in the country a free man.
Frankie Lim also shared his run-ins with Distrito.

Then playing for Coney Island in 1993, the newly appointed team manager of the Smart-Gilas national developmental pool and former team manager of the Talk N Text Tropang Texters, recounted his past clashes with Distrito. But Lim didn’t take his duels with Distrito personally.

“That’s basketball. Sometimes you’ll see some rough moments and sometimes emotions get high, but I don’t think it should be taken personal against Rudy. Balewala na ‘yun kapag nasa labas ng court,” said Lim.

“Maybe kapag nagkita kami, I would hug him or shake his hands. I’m happy for him that he’s now back in the Philippines and want to be involved in basketball again,” added Lim.

Cariaso said he looks forward meeting Distrito in some of the games of the PBA.

“I want to greet him and wish him the best,” said Cariaso.

Friday, November 20, 2009

World Ten Ball Championship next big thing after Pacquiao

ONCE again, Manny Pacquiao, the Filipinos’ modern-day hero, provided light to a nation torn apart by bickering in politics and devastated by calamities, pinching-economy and victim of a corrupt system.

The Filipino boxing warrior has once again proved his valor and rewarded the country of yet another worthy performance. Inside the ring, Pacquiao was a sight to behold, ripping punches and combinations that proved to be too much for his Puerto Rican rival to bear.

Pacquiao was in seventh heaven – as he has won his seventh title in seven different weight classes – so as the Filipinos needing a hero in time of distressed.

But what’s the next big thing after Pacquiao?

The entire nation need not to wait for another year to see the People’s Champion climbing the ring and basking in glory.

The World Ten Ball Championship, which the Philippines will be holding for the second straight year, comes in at the perfect place at a perfect time.

Filipinos are thirsting for more and wanting to see more athletes becoming new modern-day heroes and excelling in different fields.

The WTBC will have the biggest gathering of male players around the world, which include the defending champion, the world’s No.1 player, the current money leader, former world champions and champions of different regions.

“What we have right here is the biggest event in billiards,” said Yen Makabenta, president of the organizing Raya Sports and chairman of the Billiards and Snooker Congress of the Philippines (BSCP).

Makabenta is speaking based on facts.

Europe already has a total of 52 players securing seats in the main draw of the WTBC, including defending World Ten Ball champion Darren Appleton of Great Britain, world’s No.1 player Ralf Souquet of Germany, world pool’s money leader Mika Immonen of Finland and former world champions Daryl Peach of Great Britain and Thorsten Hohmann of Germany.

Asia also has a formidable cast from pool powerhouse nations like Chinese-Taipei and the Philippines as well as neighboring countries from Japan, Korea, China, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Middle East.

A total of 12 Filipino players have already secured seats in the main draw of the WTBC led by Jeffrey de Luna, the highest-rated Pinoy player (No.7 in the world) and last year’s surprising semifinalists Demosthenes Pulpul. Other Filipinos entered in the main draw are former world No.1 Dennis Orcullo, double world champion Ronnie Alcano, Warren Kiamco, Marlon Manalo, Lee Van Corteza, Antonio Gabica, former junior champion Jericho Banares, Allan Cuartero, Carlo Biado and Ramil Gallego.

Chinese-Taipei will be led by former World 9-Ball champion Chao Fong Pang, Asian money-game king Yang Ching-Shun, two-time world junior champion Ko Pin Yi, Chnag Yu-Lung, Kuo Po-Cheng, Cheng Tsung-Hua, Lu Hui Chan, Fu Che-Wei and Wang Hung-Hsiang.

The United States will be led by former US Open champion Shane Van Boening, former world champion Johnny Archer, Oscar Dominguez, Shawn Putnam, Stevie Moore, Charlie Bryant, Shaun Wilkie, Corey Deuel and Charlie Williams.

The fact that the Filipinos have a fighting chance to go all the way makes the WTBC even more special for the country.

“All of our top guns are competing,” Makabenta said. “There’s a good chance that we’re going to have another Filipino world champion.”


Conspicuously missing are several great players like Wu Chia-Ching and our very own Efren “Bata” Reyes and Francisco “Django” Bustamante.

For some reasons, these players were not able to participate. Wu, a double world champion and Chinese-Taipei’s No.1 player before he was disowned, was suspended by the Asian Pocket Billiards Union for turning his back on his country.

He was reportedly offered a mouth-watering offer by Singapore, but was barred from competing in all World Pool-Billiard Association-sanctioned events. Since he cannot compete, the young cue artist has then concentrated on coaching the Singapore billiards team that will play in the Southeast Asian Games pool tournament this year.

Reyes and Bustamante’s case is different.

Playing under the stable of Putch Puyat, Reyes and Bustamante didn’t express intentions to join the WTBC. They cannot be seeded in the tournament as they are not in the top 32 of the WPA rankings, so the two players’ only chance to make it to the only world pool championship for men this year is to join the qualifying stages.

There were two qualifying stages held in November. The first stage was held early this month where Lee Van Corteza and Carlo Biado won spots in the main draw of the WTBC. The event was significant because it’s the first time in a long players from the stable of Jonathan Sy and Perry Mariano’s Bugsy’s Promotions participated in the tournament. The second is still ongoing (Nov.19-23).

It will be remembered that the two managers had differences with the Billiards Snooker Congress of the Philippines headed by Sebastian Chua and Yen Makabenta, whose group is recognized by the WPA, the world’s governing body of pool.

The warring groups patched up their differences in time for the WTBC to strengthen the Filipinos chances of winning the prestigious crown.
Unfortunately, the Puyat stable didn’t join the bandwagon of making peace with Makabenta’s group and both the legendary cue artists – Reyes and Bustamante – chose not to participate in the major pool event for the second straight year.

As for Alex Pagulayan, well, it seems he has already given up the sport and reportedly found himself a new diversion – playing poker.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A nostalgic night with friends

IT was 10 a.m. on a laidback Saturday morning when somebody rang my mobile phone. Normally, I start my weekends late morning and the ring was more than enough to get me off to bed – first, to let me know that a regular NBA game is now shown on BTV and CS9; second, to keep me reminded that I have several tasks at hand, be it articles on Manila Standard Today or GMANEWS.TV or a press release for Raya Sports; and third, to clear my head and determine who the hell is calling me up and waking me from sleep.

Who’s this? That’s the first two words I uttered just like a fly coming out of my mouth. Calling on the other end was a friend from way back – Benjo de Leon, whose young looks 17 years ago reminded me so much of ER Ejercito, son of the late great movie and television personality who made it big in the country by starring in different roles from action, comedy, drama and even adult flicks (he he he).

Ah yes, Benjo was a fine gentlemen. We only talked quite a number of times in more than a decade as our ambitions took most of the time of a well-valued friendship that remained strong come hell or high water.

He was, of course, a family man now, with two kids, a lovely wife and a colorful career in one of the biggest beverage company owned by one of the nation’s richest men. Benjo, the way things look like, is a successful man – a successful family man.

“Pare, si Benjo ito,” said the mild-mannered gentleman from Proj. 8 Quezon City. “Puwede ka ba mamya? Magkita-kita tayo nina Tinyente and Christopher Ramos.”

“Ok, cge pare. See you later,” I said.

“Magkita-kita na lang tayo sa Jollibee Munoz ng 4 p.m.,” added Benjo.

Jolibee Munoz? Ah, that place brought back fond memories of our adventures as a graduating student from Judge Juan Luna. I wasn’t a part of the cream of the crop just like Benjo and his classmates, which include Tinyente and Christopher. But I belonged to Section Two (Bonifacio) while they were from Rizal.

Tinyente, by the way, is Christopher Cruz, my closest friend from the barkada known as WBCJ. WBCJ was like the glamour boys of Class 91-92. It has a combination looks, smarts and abilities. They were chick magnate, outstanding classmen and role model rolled into one. Wilbur Serra was the W and he has definitely find peace living in Great Britain where popular football player David Beckham became one of his clients. Benjo was the B and his accomplishments speak for itself. There were actually two Cs – Cruz and Ramos.

Cruz is currently a Marine officer who wants to serve – and die for the country (You weep for Santiago while I cursed the marine, as mentioned by Jack Nicholson) . Ramos is a successful businessmen who turned every piece of iron to good measure and create a well-engine machine.

J is Junel, who is now missing in action and clearing his head now from personal miseries.

How do I stumbled on these bunch of guys was definitely a long story, but I’m really privileged to be part of the barkada. I’m a year older than them as I was a transferee and honest to say that I repeated a year when I went to JJLHS in 1989 from Far Eastern University.

Two years later, I managed to squeeze my way to the WBCJ group and became their friends even after high school.

Time flew so fast. We were on board a maroon Lite Ace Daihatsu driven by Benjo – me seated on the front seat and Tinyente took the back seat. The mood was certainly nostalgic – from a Metallica music played on CD, to every conversation that went back to the not-so-distant past to the days and nights of our daily lives as if everyone doesn’t want to miss every detail on what’s happening to each and every one of us.

Traffic caught up on us from Commonwealth going to Batasan, but it seems we’re all ready to endure everything on that day like a Titan who ruled the universe. Finally, we’re in front of a big warehouse in Marikina. This warehouse is owned by Christopher Ramos, who is fondly called by everyone as Bobot (even if Bobot is more synonymous to Edgar Mortiz and Christopher de Leon is called as Boyet he he).

Just few handshakes get ourselves accustomed to one another again as if we haven’t missed every little thing. We were welcomed as well by Bobot’s other half, Michelle Cadatman-Ramos and her mom.

Off to the dinning table, we were greeted by a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Spicy or original won’t matter that night. What matters most is that friends from way back, now gathered together and bonded for one rare evening – an evening of nostalgic moments that touched off every step of our way from high school from where we are now.

We took a small tour inside the warehouse where we saw multi-cabs, trucks and even Harabas Jeepney reminiscent of Jun Aristorenas back in the 70s. We turned Bobot’s office that has every accessory from scissors, piece of metal to checkpoint device used by security personnel, into an open bar from night to wee hours.
We talked about sports and sundry. We debated on so many things – from politics, sports (like the Arboleda-Katigbac case), the global warming, our careers and our loved ones from past to present.

The timeless conversation was done over bottles of beer. We could only hope time will last, but like the true men of the house that we are now, we knew our priorities. Gone were the days when we will spend countless days and nights together and even spend Christmas away from our families. Our lives have definitely changed now, a part of our life now has made us realized what will separate the men from the boys.

We may greet each other few times in a year, might receive few text messages, e-mails or even chat through Facebook or Yahoo Messenger. But wherever we are, and whatever we do, we all knew deep in our minds, the memories will always last.

Monday, November 2, 2009


MY schedule was toxic the past week and I assume the same will happen any day from now even though it’s a long Holiday.

I guess the safest way for me is to change the Monday Hodge Podge into a weekly Hodge Podge. So here it goes.

THE most credible person shed light during a congressional hearing called by Games and Amusement chair Rep. Amado Bagatsing, former director of the Philippine Long Distance Company whose KABAKA project is also being supported by Smart Communications.

No, it’s not Wynne Arboleda, who assaulted Alain Katigbac during the heated battle of Burger King and Smart Gilas more than a week ago.

Definitely it’s not Katigbac either, who after hurling invectives repeatedly against Arboleda and many other Burger King players who passed by him, couldn’t back up his thrash and now hiding on his lawyer’s big pocket.

It’s not Noli Eala nor Yeng Guiao, who had histories of trading barbs. And certainly not newly-appointed PBA chairman Lito Alvarez, the master trader in the PBA.

The substance the congressmen were looking for came from the pretty courtside reporter from the PBA – Patricia Bermudez-Hizon, who was a first-hand witness inside the Burger King locker room.

At the time when the fiery Burger King mentor was being pinpointed as the one who gave instructions to his players in hurting their younger counterparts from Smart Gilas, the wife of the former league superstar broke down to details what her business was inside the men’s locker room.

A congressman asked whether Bermudez-Hizon has malice (not her presence inside the men’s locker room) but the phrase “put Gilas in their place” that came out in her Twitter.

“I'm allowed by coaches to enter the locker room. I explained the offensive and defensive schemes of Burger King as well as coach Yeng’s motivation to his players that Gilas players will not enter the league and take their spots yet and that they are the ones in the spot, so they should put Gilas in their place,” said Bermudez-Hizon.

Bermudez-Hizon also added that there were no directives from Guiao to hurt Smart Gilas players, thus squelching accusations against the Burger King mentor and clearing his name, from this mess.


So Smart Gilas’ games are now just plainly exhibition matches. Good for the teams in the PBA as they can concentrate on helping the national developmental pool members.

Ginebra coach Jong Uichico agreed on the decision of PBA commissioner Sonny Barrios to make Gilas’ games reduced from bearing games to other teams to purely exhibition game.

“If we want to help them, we must deviate ourselves from the we-must-win attitude. In as much as we want to help them, we badly needed the win,” said Uichico after Ginebra’s victory over Smart-Gilas.

A week later, Uichico was humming a different tune. We can’t blame him, his team’s number of victories were sliced down a bit after that new ruling of having Smart-Gilas’ games not to be counted on the team standings.

“I am in favor of making the games of Smart-Gilas to become exhibition matches, but certainly not in the middle of the elimination round,” said Uichico. “Of course, it definitely hurt my team. Instead of having a 3-1 record, we’re down to 2-1.”

Alaska coach Tim Cone was very much vocal right from the start regarding the national team aspirants’ participation.

"I’m not a fan of national team competing on a PBA scheduled-games,” said Cone. “It affects our concentration. Now we can focus on helping them as all their games are down to exhibition matches.”

Like Uichico, Cone had the chance of handling the all-pro national team. He was coach of the Centennial team and also had sad experiences competing as a guest squad in the PBA.

“We played in an import-flavored conference. It was a bad experience and was not a big help for our campaign,” added Cone.

Cone was on spotlight with selected sportswriters during a fellowship made possible by Alaska bossman Wilfred Steven Uytengsu at the Kamayan Restaurant in Edsa.

The two was very open in sharing the secrets of the team’s success that made their franchise the most dominant team in the country’s premier professional cage league.

“I remember Fred relaying a story about Tim making a lot of suggestions,” said Trillo, who came to Alaska months later than Cone after a colorful career in sportscasting. “Then Fred told Tim, you know, you talk too much Tim, why don’t you coach the squad.”

From there, the legacy started. The trio built a foundation anchored on Sean Chambers, who then became the resident import of the Aces then known as the Milkmen (when the league wants every moniker literally associated with the product, say like Rhum Masters for Tanduay, Hotdogs for Purefoods, Beermen for San Miguel, Turbo Chargers for Shell among others).

Slowly but surely, the influx of talent came in – Bong Alvarez was picked up in 1989 to add youth and excitement then Eugene Quilban was added. Jojo Lastimosa was acquired in a trade with Boy Cabahug in 1991 then two years later, a rookie named Johnny Abarrientos made the squad even more formidable. Then, Alvarez was traded for Bong Hawkins.

By bits and grabs, the Aces formed the nucleus of their squad and get them all together to play within the Triangle Offense of Cone. Amazingly, the Aces won 10 championships in the 90s to become a PBA dynasty.

This season’s batch of Aces have every ingredient of a championship caliber squad. No wonder Alaska is the only undefeated team in KFC-PBA Philippine Cup.

“Through the years, I had my shares of selfish players that I have to deal with it, yet we became successful. I really like the composition of our team this season. Players have become more matured. Like I’ve said during the pre season, I would rather want to establish team chemistry more than making several acquisitions of big-time players,” said Cone, who also put an end to the trade talks involving Willie Miller.

“Miller is definitely our best player. The only bad thing on Willie is that he thinks he could do everything he might be thinking he is a LeBron James or a Kobe Bryant,” said Cone in jest. “But he is truly a likeable person. I’m glad to have him on my team.”

Uytengsu, a former head of the Philippine Amateur Swimming Association, also felt sad Arboleda will be gone for the rest of the season.

“Off the court, he seems to be a likeable person. On the court, he is a hard-nosed defender. Now, he will be remembered for the mistake he has done for several minutes – that kick, punch and punch. It’s too bad it has happened. But some people lived a lifetime in a minute and Arboleda changed his life through that forgettable minutes,” said Uytengsu.